Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lysimachia: A Lovely Thug

Sometimes when you inherit plants from well intentioned, yet less informed gardeners than oneself, well, sometimes you're not quite sure what to expect. The friend from the neighborhood who initially gave us a clump of this Lysimachia ciliata 'Purpurea,' swore that it was 'Yellow Bee Balm,' something that we, of course had never heard of, though we were intrigued and said 'sure!' I'm sure that regular readers are chuckling by now at how anyone could mistake this for Monarda ... it's not even a mint (it's in the Primulaceae family!), though it has many of the semi-invasive properties of the mints (of which, of course Monarda is a member as well). Are you scared yet? Actually, you shouldn't be, because this Lysimachia is aggressive, but controllable. In fact, in the very near future it's going to be controlled to about half its current spread. We've had a few people express interest in taking some home and I sure wish they'd get here with their shovels soon, or they're going to be out of luck, because one way or another, this plant is getting seriously thinned out this year. We're not engaged in full scale annihilation (as with the Heliopsis, but more on that later), because we really do like this plant, but we just don't have the space for it to take over.
So now, after having damned this plant with faint praise, I should highlight the numerous good points about Lysimachia ciliata. Obviously, it's a tough attractive plant that requires virtually no attention ... so for certain growing situations, it's a really good choice. But for the more space-challenged gardener, one needs to be ready to be as aggressive about thinning it out as it is about spreading out expansively. For a thug, though, it sure is lovely ... with its purple-burgundy colored foliage (the intensity depends on how much sun it gets) and simple yellow flowers in profusion. When we first got this in 2004, we needed plants to fill out the recently opened up gardening spaces ... but we didn't quite expect this one to settle in so quickly. This would make a great fence line plant for a sunny situation, where it could within a few years line it ... but in our front gardens where we prefer to highlight some of our more dramatic performers, it has gradually become a bit of a pest, thus the imminent thinning out.

It's all part of the gentle taming of our (self-described) Savage Cottage Garden style of doing things around here ... we're willing to let some rogues in on the space, but we definitely reserve the right to determine appropriate boundaries. Keeping this in mind when planting this Lysimachia, should, I hope, put this all into perspective. Lots of positives and pretty, but caveat emptor! A lot of what we have is going to the compost soon, but that's not a reason to banish this one from the garden entirely. It will remain, however, a bit diminished in scope...


Mother Nature said...

I once planted river oats because of the beautiful dangling flat seed pods. Yikes! They reproduced like crazy in the delta region I was living. They became a burden removing the seeds so they wouldn't sprout and pulling the ones that did.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Very pretty plant. I have a similar lysimachia called Firecracker with the red foliage.

Speaking as a gardener who loves bishop weed, various lysimachia, ribbon grass--in fact most aggressive things EXCEPT the dread chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata). They have a place. For me the place is often surrounding shrubs in that 'no mow' land. A bright ring of bishop weed is very pretty under lilacs or spirea where it can be controlled by John Deere;)

Gail said...


I loved this post; an enjoyable read (you are a marvelous writer) with good info! This little adorable darling's cousin, L quadrifolia (whorles loosestrife) grows wild in my back garden. Yours is much better looking.

Sometimes we have to be's hard for me to do....which is why I have some plants that really need an intervention. Perhaps it's I who needs the intervention? I would much rather give it away then compost a cute plant! There is plenty of shade in my garden but sunny spots are at a premium...must change my ways!


FARfetched said...

One good thing about droughts, you don't have to worry about thinning out stuff. Just water what you want to keep & let the rest either die or become drought-resistant. ;-)

boran2 said...

It is a pretty plant, IVG. And carefree too. Sounds good to me.

Shady Gardener said...

IVG, I had to look this up. I see it's in the loosestrife family (what a wide variety of plant material in that family!). No wonder it's a fairly prolific "wanderer!" I see it's also pretty tall. It really is lovely (I like the large photos!), but I'm going to shy away from it. You can see I have "Gooseneck Loosestrife." It's shorter and is situated in a rocky bed here. Due to its environment, it's pretty well confined. :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Donna,
I've seen pictures of river oats, and they are indeed pretty (invasive, eh?), though I suspect they'd only survive as an annual here, but who's to say they wouldn't drop seed all over the place and become a pest.

We always try to get the datura pods too before they pop open, but always fail to get them all so we have them everywhere in the spring/summer. I spotted a bunch tonight that will soon be taking up residence in the compost!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie!
I haven't seen 'Firecracker' ... does it have yellow or red flowers? Red foliage and flowers would be really cool (we plant Celosia 'New Look' for just that effect).

I'm not sure what Bishop's weed is, so maybe you could do a favorite weeds post at your place sometime, lol!

Funny you mention Hottuynia ... I looked at some of that in the garden center this spring and thought it was kind of pretty and unusual, but didn't buy any because I knew nothing about it. Thanks for the warning!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail!
I swear I left a comment at your place last night about the moth video, but checked today and it wasn't there. Blogger sure has been acting weird lately (and that's not the only comment that's been eaten recently).

Glad you liked the post, and thanks for the compliment, I'm honored. Yeah, being ruthless (where's Ruth?)hasn't come easily for us either, especially when it comes to plants we really like but have to dispose of (e.g. Rue, coneflowers, Sea Holly, etc.), and we too, would rather give it to a good home, but sometimes ... ya gotta do it.

Plant interventions, eh? Maybe we and some other gardeners should pitch that to A&E for a series? LOL

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey FAR,
I bet this one would just love living at the Manor, along with your friends the butterfly bushes, hehe.

Seriously though, I'd feel guilty to turn this one loose in your garden, because I'd fear the results in a year or so! And the retribution from the Manor denizens, hehe.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi B2,
Pretty and carefree it is, if you have the space to let it conquer. I do think it could look really nice along a fence row at the back of a property where it wouldn't matter too much if it took over. Every plant has some kind of useful purpose (except for things like poison ivy, sumac, and such).

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey Shady!
Seems like a lot of Lysimachia species end up being called some kind of Loosestrife, but at least this one isn't the horrid invader they have out east and into Canada. We've seen that around the neighborhood, but fortunately it has never shown up here!

Yep this gets over 4 ft tall and grows in a very dense clump, which does crowd out the weeds, but unfortunately everything else nearby. I liked Gail's term 'Plant intervention,' because this one's due for one real soon!

Good yours is contained, but watch out beyond the boundaries though, I think this one also spreads some by runners (not sure though but it seems like it does).

Gail said...


I have actually entertained the idea of moving to another blog service, but blogger makes it so easy to use...their own version of golden handcuffs! Losing comments, difficulty loading photos...maybe it's no better on the others!

Enough complaining! Now off to finish my visit at your coneflower post!


Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
Blogger is glitchy sometimes, but it's gotten much more reliable since I first started this in 2006. I'm pretty much stuck and don't mind the once in a while glitch. The thought of having to move everything over to another service and redesigning (which needs to happen anyway) is too daunting at the moment. If I did move, I know I sure wouldn't choose WordPress ... their blogs are so notorious for eating comments, I don't even bother on them anymore.

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